As I was sitting around the table with about six female friends, I struggled to describe to them a girl whom we all knew but I could not remember her name. Once I remembered her name, we realized that there were two girls whom I could have potentially been talking about. One of my friends said, “dark skin X”. I said, “no, she’s brown skin”. Most of the girls laughed at my use of the words brown skin, assuring me that the only real options are “light skin” or “dark skin”.
While this happened a few weeks ago, I have been bothered by it ever since. Most blog posts on skin color question why is the color of one’s skin still an issue that black women struggle with. The dialogue I had with my friends provided much insight: we don’t see the many shades of black and brown; many of us are seeing each other in black and white.
If it is true that we only see each other in black and white, perhaps we essentially don’t understand the complexity and beauty of our own skin color nor do we expect that people of other ethnic backgrounds would ever be able to provide an accurate description of a criminal with any sign of pigmentation. Hair is good or bad, people are rich or poor, clothes are expensive or cheap. No longer do people take the time to explain or care about the details that distinguish AND unite us. If we could say “she’s honey brown, or tan” we would go from just describing black people to realizing that we could be talking about people of Latin descent, Indian descent, Hawaiian or even Asian. This level of care and detail in how we describe each other could make a great difference in the ongoing discussion of color and all things that have a “good” and “bad” connotation.